Paddle surf in Oceanside

7 Refreshing Ways to Get Out on the Water


By Andrew Bender

With three miles of sparkling California coastline, Oceanside has all you need for getting out on the water. Here are ideas for just some signature activities to get you started, from right in front of The Seabird, to Oceanside Harbor, and all along the shore. 



What is a visit to Southern California without surfing? Oceanside is one of the state’s surf capitals (the California Surf Museum is here), and surf culture can be seen along any beach and around town in the clothing, “no worries” attitude, and even the food.


Whether you’ve never been on a board or you’re an experienced surfer looking to tune up your technique, you can find surfing for all ages in Oceanside. North County Surf Academy has you covered with 90-minute private and group surf lessons. It’s headed by third-generation surfer (and lifelong north San Diego County resident) Duran Barr, for an added local touch.


In Oceanside on a Saturday? Check out the 2-hour Surf Club from Whitlock Surf Experience available through our sister resort, The Seabird, to learn more about the ocean and hone your skills. All lessons include both the board and the all-important wetsuit.



Kayaking is such an Oceanside thing that the harbor has its own public kayak launch. Outfitters like Boats4Rent provide single or double kayaks, paddles, and life vests. You provide the enthusiasm and energy as you paddle around the secluded harbor lined with colorful shops and eateries, or past the jetties to the open Pacific.



What’s SUP? Standup paddleboarding, of course! Whether your destination is a lake, harbor, or the open water, Oceanside’s a natural for this popular sport. Even for novices it’s pretty easy – stand on the sweet spot and keep your legs apart, and you’re off and paddling. Shops around town, like UP Sports and the boat rental spots on the harbor, offer rentals.


Girl walking on the sand


You may not want to leave The Seabird’s ocean-view pool deck…but you’re in Oceanside, which is blessed with seven named beaches each with their own character. Grab a beach towel, picnic, and sunscreen, and the fun is baked in.


Right across from The Seabird, Pier View South Beach has the easiest access and most activity including an outdoor amphitheater. (As guests of The Seabird, you can snag complimentary beach towels, loungers, and umbrellas to set up on your own perfect spot of sand. Just stop by our Beach Rambler located on The Strand to get help with beach services and pick up other beachy necessities to help you stay cool.) Pier View North Beach, just the other side of the pier, tends to be less busy. Further north, Harbor Beach is the longest in town, while adjacent is quiet, family-friendly Breakwater Beach. 


Whale Watching

Mere minutes from Oceanside, the Pacific Ocean teems with wildlife. You never quite know what you’re going to see on any given day (it’s wildlife!), but minke, humpback and fin whales, and dolphins are good possibilities — plus gray whales in the cooler months (November to April) and blue whales the rest of the year. Other local seaborne residents might include turtles, sharks, sea lions, numerous bird and fish species, and maybe even an orca!


Oceanside Coastal Expeditions leads whale watching and dolphin racing excursions. Its Zodiac boat, refitted for leisure guests, seats up to six people on trips of up 90 minutes. Oceanside Adventures offers a more luxury experience, two hours on a 50-foot catamaran seating up to 49 people.


Pro tip: Try to go in the morning, when generally calmer seas mean a better chance to view marine life.


Impressive sunset from the beach, overlooking the boardwalk



Here in Oceanside, you don’t even need to board a boat to find a good catch. Just walk across the street from The Seabird to Oceanside Pier, the longest wooden pier in California (1,942 feet). Several fish species frequent the waters below, so drop a line, and you may get a bite from a halibut or sand bass in no time. Oceanside Pier & Bait can outfit you with all the gear and bait.


Oceanside Harbor offers the Small Craft Harbor Fishing Pier where the waters yield croakers, perch, and bass. No fishing license is required to fish on the piers.


For all other locations, you’ll need a license — ask local operators how to obtain one or visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Helgren’s Sportfishing offers half-day to multi-day excursions on the Pacific, on a quest for bonito, sea bass, halibut and mahi mahi. The Helgren family has been in business here since the late 1970s and knows the waters inside out.


Boogie Boarding

In 2021, the boogie board turned 50, complete with a proclamation by the city of Oceanside for its inventor, Tom Morey. And no wonder, these small boards let just about anyone ride the waves, for a combination of simplicity, speed, thrills and just plain fun for kids (and kids at heart) of all ages. Rent a board from shops like Real Surf, and get out there. The waves are waiting.